The increased focus on BYOD in schools has certainly generated a lot of discussion and debate in recent months. The idea of student-owned devices being brought to school as a matter of course is no longer the perogative of the exclusive private schools, with an increasing number of schools I deal with in NZ now considering or embarking on schemes to accommodate students being able to bring their personal, internet-capable computing devices to school to be used for learning.
At the recent ULearn conference in Rotorua I conducted a workshop and panel discussion on this topic – it was one of the most well-subscribed workshops of the conference, despite being in the 'graveyard' slot on the final day, an indication of the interest that lies here.
The panel included reps from five schools in NZ where I consider they're doing a great job of implementing a BYOD policy. Each of the teachers explained in summary what they're doing and why, and then were available to answer questions from the floor.
Of course, allowing students to bring their own devices to school is the easy part – in fact, many of them already do, in the form of their mobile phone(s) and MP3 players etc. Among the issues that were explored in the ULearn workshop were:
- what is the overall rationale for allowing students to use their own device in school?
- what sort of wireless connectivity is required?
- how do you configure the wireless network to manage traffic from hundreds of devices?
- what policies are required and how do you manage/enforce these?
- how do you manage cyber safety? copyright? filtering?
- should you insist on all students using the same device and applications to ensure they can be used purposefully in the classroom?
- who is responsible for maintenance and when things go wrong?
There's more than a blog post that could be written on each of these issues, so we've set up a BYOD in schools group in the VLN for these discussions to continue. There's also a bit of discussion generated over on the MLE list on this as well.
The Victorian Department of Education's new "iPads for education" website (llustrated above) is for educators who want to learn about using iPads in education, and illustrates the significance our cousins across the ditch place on the emerging trend here. The Victorian DoE are working with Apple to test the value of the iPad, and the applications it can access, as an additional opportunity to engage students and to improve their educational attainment.
While I'm sure there'll be ongoing debates over whether they should be using iPads or netbooks, or full-sized laptops or desktops etc., it will certainly be interesting to see what sort of results emerge from this study – the case studies on the site provide a useful insight into the ways they are using these devices already.
The point is that the demand from students to be able to bring their own device to school and connect to the school network for learning is already being estblished. On top of that there is the fact that many of these new devices come with features and interfaces that we need to explore with our students in order to understand exactly how they might impact on learning and learner behaviour, and not be stifled by our existing prejudices and patterns of use.
Come and join the discussion in the BYOD in Schools group on the VLN to carry this conversation further.